Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Henry

Last Name: Starks

Birthplace: Springfield, Sangamon, IL, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Irvin

Date of Birth: 09 September 1923

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank: Private

Years Served: 1941-1942

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Henry Irvin Starks, III

Private, United States Marine Corps

Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart

Henry Irvin Starks, III, was the son of Henry Irvin Starks Jr and Velma Gladys Hickman who married about 1923. Henry's sibling was Dorothy L. Starks. Henry Jr died in 1928 of Tuberculosis at the age of 28. Henry lived with his paternal grandparents, Henry and Hattie Starks, while he grew up in Springfield, IL. Henry Sr. was a life long Wabash Rail Road employee who worked his way up to become a train engineer. When he died in 1934 Hattie and her daughter, Mary Caroline, assumed the full time duties of raising Irvin. He graduated from Feitshans High School in Springfield, IL in June 1941.

Several months later on 30 Sept 1941 Henry Starks enlisted in the US Marine Corps in Chicago, IL. On 03 Oct, he reported to the Marine Recruit Depot, San Diego and was assigned to the Fifth Recruit Battalion. He completed his recruit training and on 15 Jan 1942 he reported to the Aircraft Engineering Sq.Twenty Three, at NAS, San Diego from Aircraft Engineering Sq.Twenty Two also at NAS, San Diego. On 28 April 1942 he was transferred to the Headquarters Squadron, 2nd Marine Air Wing. In early May Pvt Starks boarded the USS J. Franklin Bell for a transit to Pearl Harbor. Less than a week after arriving in Pearl Harbor Starks was again in transit. This time it was to the island of Midway aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (AKV-1), a cargo ship and aircraft transport. She arrived on 26 May and delivered the Marines and her cargo that included 19 new Douglas Dauntless SBD-2 dive bombers for VSMB-241. A short time later a call went out for volunteers for aerial gunners aboard the Vindicator dive bombers that also belonged to VSMB-241. Pvt Starks, an aircraft mechanic, volunteered to learn to fire a machine gun in a dive bomber. He was assigned to the Vindicator flown by 2nd Lt. Daniel L Cummings, a former fighter pilot with VMF-221 also stationed on Midway. An intensive training period followed over the next several days.

In those days Starks logged just three flights in his aircraft. Unfortunately, there was neither time, ammunition nor resources available for additional training in the air. Then on 03 Jun they had a collision that put their usual plane out of commission. At 0600 on the morning of 04 Jun 1942 as the Japanese Strike Force crept ever closer to Midway, Cummings and Stark climbed into a spare Vindicator and took off from NAS Midway. As they climbed to join their formation, rear-facing gunner Pvt Starks, in the tail-end plane, had a panoramic view of the Japanese attacking the facilities at Midway. At 0825 section leader Capt. Leon M. Williamson sighted the Japanese fleet. At the same time Japanese fighters spotted the Vindicators.

On the first pass the Zeros wrecked havoc on the Marine aircraft. The plane raked by gunfire was that of Lt Cummings; at least one of the bullets struck Pvt Starks, probably killing him. As the Vindicators approached their target another fighter made a pass on the formation. Cummings, still in the rear of the formation, stated later they he heard nothing from his rear seat gunner. He also stated that he believed Starks had been killed. Cummings survived the attack on the Japanese but his plane was badly shot up. Returning to Midway the plane was leaking fuel and Cummings was forced to ditch about five miles from Midway.

Lt Cummings stated that his plane sunk almost immediately and that he only had enough time to confirm that Starks was dead. He went down with the plane. Cummings was picked up by a navy patrol craft and returned to Midway. Pvt Starks was declared missing in action and his remains were unrecoverable. On 05 Jun 1943, he was declared presumed dead.

For his gallantry in action, Pvt Starks was awarded (posthumously) the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Presidential Unit Citation w/ribbon, the American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star, and the World War II Victory Medal. On 2 Jun 1992, Henry Irvin Starks, III, was honored with a funeral and a headstone at Camp Butler National Cemetery, Springfield, IL.

Note: Lt Daniel Libby Cummings would go on to fly with VMSB-233. He earned the Navy Cross and three Distinguished Flying Crosses during World War II. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after service in Korea and Vietnam. He died on 05 Oct 1998 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Distinguished flying Cross citation reads:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Private Henry Irwin (sic) Starks, Private, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Radioman-Gunner in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE, during the Battle of Midway, 4 and 5 June 1945. In a determined attack against the invading Japanese Fleet, Private Starks, serving as rear-seat free machine-gunner, maintained fire in the face of overwhelming enemy fighter opposition and fierce anti-aircraft barrage. Because of circumstances attendant upon this engagement, there can be little doubt that he gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country. His courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 311 (February 1943)

Note: His middle name is spelled Irvin vice Irwin.


Presidential Unit Citation reads:

Marine Air Group 22 Presidential Unit Citation:

"For conspicuous courage and heroism in combat at Midway Island during June 1942. Outnumbered five to one, Marine Aircraft Group 22 boldly intercepted a heavily escorted enemy bombing force, disrupting their attack and preventing serious damage to island installations. Operating with half of their dive-bomber's obsolete and in poor mechanical conditions, which necessitated vulnerable glide bombing tactics, they succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on Japanese surface units of a large enemy task force. The skill and gallant perseverance of flight and ground personnel of Marine Aircraft Group 22, fighting under tremendously adverse and dangerous conditions were essential factors in the unyielding defense of Midway."


Pvt Starks' family received a commemoration from President Roosevelt. It reads:

“In grateful memory of Henry Irvin Starks, United States Marine Corps, who died in the service of his country at Midway Islands, 5 June 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

signed, Franklin D Roosevelt,

President of the United States of America”

Compiler's note: I have a copy of the original commemoration provided by his family.


The Decatur Daily Review (Decatur, IL) - 16 Jun 1942, Tue - p. 16

Former Decatur Man Is Missing in Action

Pvt Henry I. Starks, a former Decatur resident and grandson of Mrs. Hattie Starks, now living in Springfield, has been reported missing in action with the marine corps "in performance of his duty and in service of his country." according to a telegram received Sunday by Mrs. Starks from the corps commandant in Washington, D.C. Private Starks left Decatur about five years ago. He enlisted in the marine corps about a year ago after graduating from high school in Springfield. He is a nephew of Miss Caroline Starks, well-known in Decatur.


The Decatur Herald (Decatur, IL) - 24 Jul 1942, Fri - p. 6

62 Fighting Men Are Honored in Heroes Program

Sixty-two fighting men of Central Illinois, 25 of whom are from Macon county are being honored today in Decatur's American Heroes program because they are either, missing, wounded, imprisoned, have been killed. Some have been previously honored by official recognition. Pictures are available of 46 of the heroes which appear on these pages. Others for whom no pictures were available are listed below. . . Henry I. Starks, grandson of Mrs. Hattie Starks, formerly of Decatur, now of Springfield, private, marine corps, missing in action, June 14.

[Original article edited for content.]


The Decatur Daily Review (Decatur, IL) - 19 Dec 1942, Sat - p. 7

Henry Starks Cited as Hero

Pvt. Henry Irvin Starks, United States marine corps, son of Mrs. Velma G. Starks, formerly of Decatur and now of Springfield, has been ordered cited for the distinguished flying cross during the battle of Midway, it was reported. Private Starks was reported missing in action following the Midway battle in early June, and no further word of him was received until notice of his award from the navy department. He was serving as a radioman-gunner in a marine scout-bombing when his heroism was noted. He made his home with his grandmother, Mrs. Hattie Starks, and aunt, Miss Caroline Starks, who are also former Decatur residents now of Springfield.


Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat was/is the Air Medal.

[Bio #226 composed by Gerry Lawton (GML470)]

Honoree ID: 102528   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image